This blog post is part of Forrester’s Holiday 2019 retail series.

Retailers (and consumers) have been talking about all things holiday for months, but the “official” kickoff of the highly anticipated shopping season took place this past weekend. By many counts, it was a success. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that a record-breaking 189.6 million US consumers, a 14 percent increase from last year, participated in the Thanksgiving weekend sales extravaganza — spanning Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday. This year, Forrester estimates total US online holiday retail sales alone to grow at a steady year-over-year rate of 12.7%.

To get a closer look at what retailers are doing this holiday season, I looked at 44 retailers’ home pages, spanning numerous categories, during their Cyber Monday sales. Here are the highlights:

  • Retailers still haven’t figured out the criticality of free shipping. Forrester’s latest Consumer Technographics® data revealed that 47% of US online adults consider free shipping influential in determining which retailer that they will buy from online — and that’s second only to total cost. Of the retailer sites I reviewed, 15 offered free shipping on Cyber Monday, including just nine that offer free shipping all year round, and the remaining 6 only offer it as a Cyber Monday special.


  • DTC brands experiment with Cyber Monday sales. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands have historically refrained from deals and discounts, especially on big holiday sales events like Cyber Monday. This year, however, six of the 10 DTC brands whose sites I visited on Monday had some form of special holiday offer, ranging from free shipping to sitewide discount codes.


  • Loyalty program members receive exclusive offers. Retailers made sure to cater to their loyalty members during the shopping weekend. Beginning early last week, some retailers allowed loyalty members “early access” to their upcoming sale frenzies. Other retailers made it a point to offer loyalty points as rewards for purchasing specifically during the events.



  • Department stores ramp up online sales to stay competitive. As some of the most heavily impacted retailers in the shift to online sales, department stores are working hard to provide shoppers with seamless omnichannel shopping experiences. Of the eight department store websites I reviewed, seven participated in Cyber Monday (the only one that didn’t was an Italian department store that instead focused heavily on its Black Friday sales). These seven department stores offered a variety of deals, including deep discounts on select items and reward points. Even UK retailer Marks & Spencer, which has opted out of Black Friday sales in the past, took part in Cyber Monday this year.


For more information on the holiday season and how retailers can best prepare, be sure to check out the rest of our holiday blog series. After all, it’s never too early to start prepping for holiday 2020!



(Written with Nicole Murgia, research associate)